Ultimate Spider-Man # 79

Reviewer: Kevin S. Mahoney
Story Title: Warriors: Part 1

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciled by: Mark Bagley
Inked by: Scott Hanna
Colored by: J.D.Smith
Lettered by: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Publisher: Marvel Comics

This title is inconsistent. Sometimes, issues feel so padded that a duvet cover wouldn’t seem inappropriate. Other times, the book moves along at what seems a normal, even classic pace. This issue is the first in recent memory that has far more going on than most competing series. Readers observe three separate criminal factions try and out-crook each other, the school bound results of the Peter/MJ break up, and even the debut of the Ultimate version of a well-known (if not necessarily A-list) superhero. If the other six issues of this arc can keep their ducks in as nice a row, readers may be in for quite a nice ride.

While the pacing in this book can go madly awry at times, the plots never bore. In this admittedly frenetically paced installment, a man’s neck gets crunched like a pretzel stick, another tough gets a bullet to the forehead, an assassin is summoned, a kid angrily skips class, a mysterious stranger appears then subsequently vanishes, and Spidey gets sucker punched. The tone of these events, from bleakly comic to morbidly aggressive, seems to propel the book forward and repeatedly reinforce one idea to the reader: it’s all gonna hit the fan big time, and soon. While that won’t hook fans of simpler optimistic funny books, it most likely works for readers familiar with the hard-luck Peter stories of the 1980’s. New readers might even check the next issue out due to an oddly adrenaline soaked sympathy.

The art in this issue, as with all of Bagley’s work on USM, is well above reproach. Swinging a bit closer to verity than verisimilitude, the details make the story that much more fun to read. Everything from a Keds wearing vigilante to the cracked classroom floor tiles produces a detailed impression on the reader. Combine that love for the extra artistic effort with believable looking characters (especially a manic and somehow paranoid Wilson Fisk) and the world of Peter Parker comes to visual life without overtaxing the reader’s imagination. Hanna and Smith play their supporting parts well enough just keeping out of the way of the minutiae. While the dark visage of the end page guest star might be the sole disappointment for knowledgeable Marvel fans, the promise of an upcoming rendition of Ultimate Shang-Chi (see the lettercolumn) certainly could put paid to that debt.